Pinchas comes from the tribe of Levi. We know Levi from the story of Shechem, where we see his naturally hot-tempered character. Levi felt that justice should be done to his sister, but Jacob felt that the way in which this was done was too hard.
Pinchas by nature has the character of Aaron, which consisted of charity and mercy.
Pinchas's character consists of because of this both chesed and gevurah. (love/mercy as strength and severity)
Zimri committed public adultery with a Moabite woman. This was a form of public idolatry to Baal-peor. One of the ways to serve this idol was through fornication. Zimri showed by his act to have no respect for G-d's creature, even before Moses even before Gd Himself. His act was a public form of rebellion against G-d. This rebellion caused a plague among the people.
Pinchas killed Zimri for this act. There were those who said that he acted in temper and that he hid his bad character of extreme violence under beautiful holy words. This is because his character would have been formed by his mother who fattened slaughter calves for idolatry.
However, G-d would never have rewarded him if this were the case. G-d says that Pinchas was the avenger of His vengeance. Revenge in this case arises from anger, the anger that comes from the strong emotion of not wanting to share something. In this case, the relationship that G-d has with His people. He does not want to share this relationship with idols. The relationship is exclusive and anything else cannot be accepted. This is what the word Hebrew word Kina represents in this verse; zeal arising from love/chesed. This is in contrast to another meaning of Kina, which is jealousy, which stems from hatred.
Pinchas knew, through the history of the golden calf, that G-d desires an exclusive relationship and knew the consequences if not. He did not act as a person of religious radicalism but reacted from love, peace and tranquility.
On some level, he could unite with G-d's feelings and acted (there are commentaries that say in the Name of G-d) from a complete selflessness for the sake of G-d His Name and honor. His selflessness was demonstrated by the fact that he killed Zimri in close proximity to all the men of the tribe of Shimon and he could not be sure that he would not be killed by them himself.
Pinchas used his gevurah in complete selflessness, against his own quiet nature, for the sake/ for the benefit of his chesed for G-d and therefore for the people, because through it the plague stopped.
Each of us has chesed and gevurah. What we learn from Pinchas is that gevurah must be embedded in the selflessness of chesed for the sake of G-d and His Creation.
Brought By Angelique Sijbolts
Angelique Sijbolts is one of the main writers for the Noahide Academy. She has been an observant Noahide for many years. She studies Torah with Rabbi Perets every week. Angelique invests much of her time in editing video-lectures for the Rabbis of the Academy and contributes in administrating the Academy's website in English and Dutch. She lives in the north of the Netherlands. Married and mother of two sons. She works as a teacher in a school with students with special needs. And is a Hebrew Teacher for the levels beginners en intermediate. She likes to walk, to read and play the piano.
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